updated 28 May 2012, 12:13
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Tue, Dec 09, 2008
The New Paper
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I can't wear my dream wedding dress anymore
by Tay Shi'an

MOST brides look forward to wearing their dream wedding dress, with a plunging neckline or revealing back.

But Michelle, 32, will have to wear a small jacket over her gown during her wedding dinner next month.

She needs to cover the scars on her left arm and torso suffered in an accident.

She was badly burnt after a pub owner accidentally spilled a jug of boiling water on her in a bar in May last year.

Michelle got second-degree burns over 4 per cent of her body, and was on hospitalisation leave for 11/2months.

She took the pub owner and the company to court, and accepted their offer of $28,000 last month.

However, she says the victory was scant consolation.

The pub, Lighthouse 65 at Boat Quay, closed down two months ago.

Michelle, who has received a $2,000 interim payment so far, fears she may not receive the rest.

But the pub owner told The New Paper on Sunday that he will pay up when he can do so.

Michelle's doctor has estimated that the future cost of surgical or laser treatment for her scars would be between $15,000 and $20,000.

She has also spent more than $4,000 in medical and transport bills so far - and that is not counting her legal bills.

What pains her the most are the scars she sees whenever she looks in the mirror, and the frustration of wearing tight pressure garments and silicone gel sheets 23 hours every day for two years.

She said: 'Even plastic surgery won't bring my skin back to what it was before the accident.

'Sometimes, I would just break down and cry when I think of the injuries I have suffered, the pain I have experienced and the scars that will be for life.'

The accounts executive requested we use only her first name, as she did not want more people to ask her about her scars.

Her ordeal began in May last year, when she went to Lighthouse 65 to have a drink with her sales executive boyfriend, 35, and some friends.

In her affidavit, she said she was sitting at the bar counter when she suddenly felt a sharp pain on the left side of her body.

The pub owner, Mr Joe Wong Shee Wai, 28, had accidentally spilled a jug of hot water over her arm, back and torso.

The pain was so excruciating that Michelle fell from the tall stool to the floor.

'I was screaming and shouting hysterically... I just stayed down on the floor and sobbed uncontrollably as the pain was so unbearable,' she said.

Her boyfriend and Mr Wong rushed her to Singapore General Hospital.

It was there in the harsh hospital light, when the nurse peeled off her T-shirt, that they saw the full extent of her injuries.

Michelle said: 'The affected areas were all red, and there were palm-sized blisters developing.'

Her boyfriend said: 'I was shocked. It was ugly - a lot of skin and liquid.'

But to comfort Michelle, he kept telling her that everything would be okay.

She was given morphine to stop the pain. Her wounds were dressed, and she was put under observation for a few hours before she was discharged and given almost two months' hospitalisation leave.

She said that during that period, smelly yellow fluid kept dripping from the wounds, which she had to clean every other day at the polyclinic or at home.

'They used normal cleaning solution, but the injury was so raw and painful,' she said.

Raw & ugly

Her left arm swelled up to twice its normal size due to poor blood circulation.

She was also unable to lift her arm due to the tightness of the skin, so she had difficulty putting on and fitting into her clothes.

The injuries on her torso healed after three weeks, leaving behind large patches of discoloration.

But long, thick scars remained on her arm.

Because of the accident, Michelle failed at least one subject of her Association of Chartered Certified Accountants examinations a month later.

Her work appraisal was also affected, as she was away for almost two months.

She and her boyfriend delayed their wedding for one year.

She said: 'At that time, the intention was to get married in early 2008. But the scar was so raw, so ugly, how to get married?'

Michelle said she was initially hesitant to sue the pub and Mr Wong, because she and her boyfriend had frequented Lighthouse 65 for about four years and had become friends with the owner.

Mr Wong had also agreed to pay her medical bills.

He paid about $900 in the first four months.

Michelle said: 'My parents wanted to sue because the injury was so serious.'

These days, to manage the scars, Michelle massages them three times a day.

Her doctors have told her to consider surgical or laser treatment when the scars mature.

She also has to go for occupational therapy for arm movement.

She cannot expose the affected areas to the sun to prevent pigmentation, so she cannot wear sleeveless tops or dresses, swim, or go to the beach.

Besides the need for a jacket for her wedding gown, she cannot wear an evening gown for her wedding dinner next month, as there are very few designs with long sleeves.

So she will resort to wearing a traditional kwa - a long-sleeved outfit with pants - instead.

Michelle said: 'I'm resigned to my fate... My dream of wearing a particular wedding dress that I had been eyeing for the longest time will only remain a dream.'


I'll pay victim back when I can

THOUGH his business has failed, the pub owner says he will pay Michelle the money from the lawsuit when he has it.

Mr Joe Wong Shee Wai said he was upset by Michelle and her boyfriend's allegation that he might try to avoid paying her.

He said: 'They say I'm very irresponsible. But my business just collapsed. If I can, of course, I will give her the sum. But now, I really cannot.'

He now earns about $1,000 a month looking after a friend's pub. He claims he is about $100,000 in debt.

Mr Wong reminded the couple that when the accident happened, he had rushed to the hospital with them and offered to pay the medical bills on the spot.

He also accompanied Michelle for several of her follow-up check-ups.

He said: 'I felt bad, it was my fault.'

He showed The New Paper on Sunday receipts of Michelle's medical bills that he had paid from May to August last year, totalling about $900.

He has also made an interim payment to Michelle of $2,000.

Mr Wong also noted that he was the one who offered the sum of $28,000 to settle the lawsuit.

He felt this was a fair amount, given that her doctor had estimated her future treatments to cost between $15,000 and $20,000.

At first, Michelle refused. She had initially asked for $80,000.

She accepted the $28,000 offer only last month, after his business shut down.

Mr Wong said when he heard that Michelle intended to sue him and his pub, he had tried to talk the couple out of it.

'I said, 'We've been friends for so long. If there's a lawsuit, things will turn ugly.

'I said I'll apologise to her parents, I'll pay the medical fees and compensation if she cannot work.

'I have no insurance, so this was all out of my own pocket. But they refused, and said to go through legal means.'

Mr Wong said it was a sad end to a four-year friendship with Michelle and her boyfriend.

He said he even went to Hong Kong with Michelle's boyfriend and other friends a few years ago. They also used to go drinking together.

He said: 'I've already done all I can. Please be fair to me.'

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